We’ve spent quite a few months discussing mistakes that can get you into “trouble;” but this month, we turn to an expense that can cost you success and profit, rather than cause any legal trouble. Let’s talk about the mistake of not pursuing appropriate certifications that may help you grow your business or secure contracts at the state or federal level.
The value of certifications may not help all businesses, so make sure you look into each certification before taking the time and expense of applying for it.
As a reminder, while these are general tips, it is important to consult with an attorney individually if you have specific questions or concerns. The following is not intended to be legal advice.
Mistake # 9 – Not Pursuing Certifications
Many certification programs are set up to help minority-owned businesses win government or large corporate contracts. The first step to pursuing certifications is to look at your target customers – would your customer benefit from being able to use a minority-owned supplier? Is your customer required to use a certain percentage of minority-owned businesses?
The benefits of certification programs extend beyond minority-owned businesses (which is determined by race) to include women-owned and veteran-owned businesses.
Do you think your company might be eligible for certification?
Some popular certifications programs, but a non-exhaustive list, include:
- WOSB, VOSB, and SDVOSB – These are all certification programs run through the Small Business Administration and include “Women-Owned Small Business,” “Veteran-Owned Small Business,” and “Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business.” Each of these programs is geared toward expanding federal contracting opportunities for these small businesses. More information can be found at www.sba.gov.
- 8(a) – The 8(a) Business Development Program is run through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and helps small, disadvantaged businesses to compete in the marketplace. The program is focused on helping your business grow through offering a wide scope of assistance and educational opportunities. More information about the program can be found at the SBA site.
- HUBZone – The Historically Underutilized Business Zones is a program also run through the SBA and helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.
- WBENC – The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council offers certifications as a tool to promote your company to major corporations that are “actively seeking to conduct business with a woman/women-owned business.” Learn more about the process here.
- MBE – For those readers in Maryland, the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification is offered through the Office of Minority Business Enterprises and run under the Maryland Department of Transportation. Firms may be eligible for certification if there is a minimum of 51% ownership by one or more socially-and-economically-disadvantaged individuals: African Americans, American Indians/Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Women, Disabled, or a Non-profit organization serving the physically and/or mentally disabled population. See their website.
- For those readers outside of Maryland, look into what certifications and programs your state may offer to small businesses.
Take the time to think about whether a certification makes sense for you and your business.
Next Month: “Mistake #10 – Trust Your Gut!”
About Leah Barteld Clague, Esq.
Leah Barteld Clague is an attorney with McLaughlin Law Group, a boutique law firm focused on corporate (small business), estate planning, and estate and trust administration, and tax law. McLaughlin Law Group, started by L. Content McLaughlin, serves clients throughout Maryland. Leah started with the firm in August 2012 after graduating from the University of Maryland, School of Law. Prior to law school, Leah completed her MBA and worked as a financial analyst in both the private and public sector.
In addition to estate planning, Leah has a passion for working with small businesses. As a student, she helped grow a program called “The York (PA) Business Academy” that provided brief classes on marketing, management, financing, and legal issues for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. More recently, she consulted for a number of for-profit and non-profit clients and developed business plans, financial models, and marketing strategies that were presented to venture capitalists.
Feel free to contact Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-660-2095.